13 amazing hiking trail circuits on the beautiful GR route in France

Along its most famous hiking trails (GR), France can be explored at your leisure. Here we have selected 13 circuits for you to cross the country and explore its natural treasures.

Touring the roof of Europe in the Alps

If ascending the peak of the Mont Blanc seems out of question for you, then you'll be pleased to know that the GR TMB (for Tour du Mont-Blanc) goes around the Roof of Europe from Les Houches, at the gates of Chamonix, in about 10 days. Glaciers and peaks, alpine pastures and eternal snow: you will be absolutely amazed by the high mountain landscapes that cross over the borders of Switzerland and Italy. The passage of several passes (Bonhomme, Brévent, etc.) is breathtaking. This hike is accessible for all fit walkers.

Riding the waves on the Alabaster Coast in Normandy

Gustave Flaubert once said, "Traveling makes one modest. One sees better the tiny place that one occupies in the world". Fittingly, the bicentenary of Flaubert's birth was celebrated in 2021 in Normandy.

Indeed, you feel tiny in front of the majestic cliffs of the Alabaster Coast, the setting for breathtaking walks. Covering Le Tréport to Le Havre, "Coastline of Normandy" was elected as the favourite GR by the French in 2020. Green countrysides, authentic ports and quaint villages punctuate the steps, starting with Étretat, which forms a climactic setting for the adventures of a certain Arsène Lupin.

Tracing the footsteps of Napoleon in Provence

With the bicentenary of Napoleon's death recently commemorated in 2020, we're dreaming of filling (some) of his footsteps! The GR 406 (Route Napoléon) follows the footsteps of the Emperor who took this path on his return from Elba, in 1815, to avoid the hostility of the royalist towns. The trail crosses the natural wonders of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, explores towns with rustic charm and remarkable heritages, like Castellane, Digne-Les-Bains and Sisteron. This hike promises a walk through history!

Along the coast on the Sentier des Douaniers in Brittany

Of all the stages of the “Sentier des Douaniers” (GR 34) which goes around Brittany, the 12th is one of the most beautiful, alternating between gentle bays and steep cliffs. From the port of Douarnenez, famous for its sardines and kouign-amann cake (savory or sweet?), the route leads to the Pointe du Raz. From moors dotted with heather to vast beaches, you'll understand why this area, dubbed the "End of the Earth" (finis terrae in Latin, Finistère in French) inspired so many painters, from Eugène Boudin to Jules Breton.

Surpass yourself with the "Grande Traversée" in Corsica

It is not a land of sailors, but one of shepherds; it is not an island, but a mountain placed in the waves. Only in high altitudes does Corsica reveals its true soul, along the GR20. But there is no question of venturing by chance on this route, reserved for seasoned hikers. From the jagged peaks of Bavella to the Cascades des Anglais, from suspended villages to solitary lakes, the landscapes are overwhelmingly beautiful. The last stretch, between Paliri and Conca, sets the tone for an adventurous hike.

Along the green route of the Loire

Forget the horse-drawn carriages! Today, the best way to explore the banks of the Loire is by foot or on a bike. The most daring walk in this region is the 1,243 km (772 miles) of the GR3, snaking from the mouth of the river to the estuary. Most people are satisfied with one of the 52 stages, like the one between Orleans and Tours. In the Loire Valley, once so dear to the kings of France, troglodytic villages (Troo, Vouvray), manicured gardens (Chaumont-sur-Loire, Villandry) and noble castles (Blois, Cheverny, Chambord, Amboise) punctuate the lush Loire landscapes.

Admire the blue line of the Vosges mountains

The GR 531 is not just the most Alsatian of the long distance hiking trails crossing the Vosges; it also follows the summits of the massif, through the two natural parks of The Northern Vosges Regional Natural Park and the Ballons des Vosges. From pass to pass (Bramont, Bussang, and more), take a deep breath and enjoy an unobstructed view that stretches all the way to the Alps, especially from the Grand Ventron (1 204 m or 3950 feet). Further down in the valleys, vineyards and villages promise delectable experiences, like the valley of Munster.

Win a medal around Paris

Along the Boulevards of the Marshals and the former railway belt, the GR 75 explores the unusual side Paris: that of the emblematic parks (Boulogne, Vincennes) and little-visited neighborhoods. Created in 2017 to support the Olympic bid, the trail is also an extraordinary sports field, where you can explore the sites of the 1900 and 1924 Olympics alongside those that will host the 2024 events. From the Georges Vallerey pool where athelete Johnny Weissmuller (who appeared as Tarzan in Hollywood movies) became famous a century ago, to the Parc des Princes, imagine yourself with a gold medal around your neck...

Be charmed by the Arcachon basin

The bohemian wooden houses of Cap Ferret stand next to the oyster huts of Andernos-les-Bains; the aristocratic villas of Arcachon echo the endless sands of the Dune du Pilat. This diversity forms the essence of the GR Tour du bassin d'Arcachon. The flat salts, that stretch 85 km (52 miles), are caressed on one side by the waters of this "inland sea" and on the other by the fragrant pine forests. Treat yourself to salty breaks (oysters from Gujan-Mestras or caviar from Le Teich), and listen to the songs of the ocean breeze!

Trekking with a donkey in the Cevennes

In 1878, Robert Lewis Stevenson crossed the Massif Central with his donkey Modestine. In the footsteps of the writer, the GR 70--as seen in 2020 in the film "Antoinette dans les Cévennes"--can be hiked with or without a donkey. The animal is stubborn, but very useful to carry luggage or to carry tired children! The trail explores the wild forests of Gévaudan and crosses the granite chaos of the Mont Lozère. Along the way, distinctive villages (Florac, Saint-Jean-du-Gard, etc.) welcome travelers and their four-legged friends.

Let Nantes surprise you

The town that has long been known as the "Sleeping City" has woken up! In a decade, Nantes has risen to the top of the list of French cities where the quality of life is very good. Its vibrant culture, symbolized by the rehabilitated industrial wastelands of the Ile de Nantes, does not overshadow its "nature" aspect with 1,000 hectares (2471 acres) of parks and gardens. This is definitely a GR worth the visit! The "Pays Nantais" trail, which circles the city, allows visitors to discover the diversity of the city's countryside, from the market gardens in the south to the Erdre valley in the north.

Get a breath of fresh air on the Echappée Jurassienne

The Echappée Jurassienne (GR 59) explores the Jura, from the city of art and history of Dôle to Saint-Claude, the pipe capital, through the vineyards of the unusual "yellow wine" at Arbois or Château-Chalon, and the saltworks of Salins-les-Bains classified by UNESCO. The route is chiefly suitable to all hikers, despite the altitude. Have fun around the lakes of Chalain and Bonlieu, and climb the slopes of the Haut-Jura lined with green meadows and deep forests, accompanied by sled dogs for an invigorating dogsled-like hike!.

Watch the wildlife in the Bay of the Somme

The seals that bask in the Bay of the Somme are no longer afraid of passerbys! They are the stars of the GR 800, which was approved in 2018. From the hortillonnages of Amiens, gardens that date back to the Middle Ages crisscrossed by canals that lead to the sea, the trail wanders along the river and explores the corners of unspoiled nature that have become animal sanctuaries. This journey between land and water is also an opportunity to observe ducks, teals and egrets, especially in the Grand-Laviers reserve. Make sure you have your binoculars!